Sixty years ago, The Blob crash-landed on a clear July night and terrorized the sleepy town of Downington, PA. The indie film has garnered a lot of love over six decades and for good reason! From the moment you hear the bouncy opening tune, you know you’re seeing something unique. Not only is the creature in this feature different from most, but the pacing and point of view set it apart from other films of the ’50s.
Originally billed as the B-movie in a double feature on September 12, 1958, The Blob was slated to run after I Married a Monster From Outer Space. However, Paramount swapped the films after it became clear that movie-goers were more interested in The Blob. The aptly titled film took top billing and gained more promotion, forcing I Married a Monster... into B-movie status.
Audiences from the ’50s and ’60s aren’t the only ones to have a gooey, soft-spot for The Blob. The film was nominated in 20o1 for AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Thrills list in addition to 2003’s 100 Years… 100 Heroes and Villains list. And astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson listed The Blob amongst his favorite Hollywood aliens.
But perhaps the most endearing tribute to the globulous villain happens at it’s birthplace. For the last 19 years, the town of Phoenixville, PA has hosted Blobfest. The Colonial Theatre, which was featured in the film, hosts a weekend of horror and hilarity every July. Having attended Blobfest and the re-enactment of the run out from the film myself, I can attest that there is a sense of wonderment and blobby-pride in the community. For the 60th anniversary of the film, many special guests were on hand to celebrate. Among them were the film’s art director Bill Jersey, Keith Almoney who portrayed 5-year-old Danny, and perhaps most exciting of all, the late Wes Shank, who was the Caretaker of The Blob. Shank, a devoted film memorabilia preservationist, owned the actual silicone monster that was used in the film. He purchased the creature as a young adult and eagerly displayed the molten monster for fans to see and touch at Blobfest.
Shank, who wrote the book From Silicone to the Silver Screen–Memoirs of THE BLOB stated,
It’s just as pliable as the first time they used it. What I particularly find frightening about this material is it will outlive me. I have three sons. They all say, ‘That’s our stepbrother.’
So, what is it about The Blob that makes the film just as long-lasting as the silicone it was made from?
The film opens with a scene that is familiar enough for the time; parked teens who are watching the sky for shooting stars. American icon Steve McQueen (The Great Escape) plays Steve Andrews and Aneta Corsaut (The Andy Griffith Show) makes her debut as Jane Martin. After witnessing a falling star, the couple set out to find where it landed. However, an elderly man finds the meteorite first. He discovers the hard way that poking a gelatinous mass with a stick is not the best idea. While pursuing the fallen meteor, Steve and Jane find the ailing man and take him to the local doctor. As The Blob devours the senior citizen, it continues to glide and slide around town. In doing so, it gains mass and grows more crimson with the blood of its victims.
When Steve and Jane begin to realize there’s a monster loose, they rally friends to alert the townsfolk. The local policemen think the teens are playing a practical joke and disregard their coagulated claims. If this set up sounds familiar, then you’ve probably seen it imitated in any number of alien invasion films that came after the glutenous glob. (Night of the Creeps and Killer Klowns from Outer Space follow this formula particularly well). But for audiences in 1958, many of which were double-feature-watching-teens, they were viewing themselves on the screen. Represented in the film as the protagonists, the teens in the film worked to alert the town and save their community. This left the teens in the audience feeling validated and connected to the movie.
IT EATS YOU ALIVE!
The Blob itself is a very different kind of monster. We discover from the start that it is not human-like in any way. This sets it apart from films like The Day the Earth Stood Still or This Island Earth, where the aliens seem humanoid despite being from another planet. The Blob is more akin to the Martians from War of the Worlds. It cannot be reasoned with and shows no mercy, making it much more frightening. Still, it’s unique even from the Martian menace since it morphs after each feeding. What began as a splotch the size of a grapefruit quickly grows to the size of bowling ball. Eventually it becomes large enough to devour cinema-goers and covers a diner. After each feeding, the monster not only grows in size, but becomes more saturated in its ruddy hue. The Blob, colorized by Deluxe, packs an extra gory punch that it’s black and white counterparts don’t possess.
A Splotch, A Blotch
That playful ditty, co-written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David, works perfectly with the animated opening sequence (above). While it may seem a bit campy by today’s standards, at the time, it was a big hit. It topped the Billboard Top 100 at number 33 in November 1958 and wiggled its way into the top ten regional charts in L.A. “Weird Al” Yankovic told Rolling Stone in 2014 that he watched The Blob every night for a week as a nine-year old.
When I was nine years old, I loved The Blob, the original 1950s movie with Steve McQueen. A local TV station in L.A. played it every night for a week, and I watched it every single time. For me, the best part was always the theme song by the Five Blobs, which played over the opening credits. It’s a really catchy tune, and it has a great, memorable, iconic sax solo.
That catchy tune helped to set the audience at ease before the molten monster crept or lept across the floor or all around the wall. At Blobfest, the audience claps along enthusiastically and pops their cheeks in time to the theme. The tune is just one more reason why The Blob has rolled its way into the hearts of its fans.
There isn’t any one reason why The Blob has endured the last 60 years. Like the sticky savage in the film, its appeal isn’t always describable. But it’s fans are numerous and continue to grow. A remake of the film was made in 1988, though in true ’80s style, was far more gory than the original. Rumor globules still surface from time to time about a present day remake as well. But for now, The Blob from 1958 will remain the coolest, kitschy film with its American icons, smooth song, and indestructible alien.